TORONTO - The third season of CBC's "Battle of the Blades" will kick off this weekend with a tribute to Wade Belak, the public broadcaster said Monday.
An hour-long episode, which features the recently retired NHL enforcer as he prepares for the televised reality show, will air on Sunday, a week before live competition is set to begin.
The popular show, which is entering its third season, challenges professional hockey players to don figure skates, team up with a partner and master pairs skating in an effort to win $100,000 for charity.
Belak, who was set to team up with ice dancer Kim Navarro, was found dead in a downtown Toronto hotel and condo building late last month in what police described as an apparent suicide.
"Our hearts go out to Wade's family and friends and he is greatly missed by our cast and crew,” series co-founder John Brunton said in a statement.
"Our cast came together and told us that they felt strongly about doing the show as a tribute to Wade.”
The tribute episode, titled "Game On," will show footage of all the hockey players preparing for the competition, and pay particular tribute to Belak's "enthusiasm and humour," the broadcaster said.
"Many of the scenes in 'Game On' record what became Wade's final days," CBC said in a blog entry.
"The producers and cast of 'Battle of the Blades' would like to share those days just as Wade shared himself and his electric personality with the cast and crew."
CBC said it is hoping to find a replacement for Belak to compete alongside Navarro. The network also said former Calgary Flames captain Todd Simpson has joined the lineup for the third season.
Other competitors include NHL players Bryan Berard and Brad May, as well as Tessa Bonhomme, member of the Olympic champion Canadian women's hockey team.